Quality wins: Van de Zandschulp shines in deep US Open run

Sports

NEW YORK (AP)Botic van de Zandschulp wore a New York Yankees hat at the U.S. Open like so many city tourists. He liked America so much on his maiden trip, van de Zandschulp was in no rush to head back to the Netherlands.

He’s found a home in Flushing Meadows.

Van de Zandschulp has emerged as the surprise of the U.S. Open, and the qualifier continued his out-of-nowhere run, beating No. 11 Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1 on Sunday at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Van de Zandschulp was part of a trio of U.S. Open qualifiers that reached the fourth round for the first time since the tournament began keeping qualifying records in 1982. He joined Nicolas Escude (1999) and Gilles Muller (2008) as just the third men’s qualifier to reach the quarterfinals since the Open era began in 1968.

”It’s amazing that I beat No. 11 here, especially in a match like this,” he said. ”For me, it was the first time in the big stadium. The crowd was amazing here.”

Before the U.S. Open, the ninth-year pro had only five tour-level wins, was never ranked higher than 117 in the world and had never advanced past the second round in a Grand Slam tournament.

Look at him now, his U.S. Open streak an unqualified success for the little-known qualifier.

Van de Zandschulp should enjoy the run while he can. His next match is against No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who cruised into the U.S. Open quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Daniel Evans on Sunday.

”A lot of, I would say surprises, maybe even more than in other slams,” Medvedev said.

The 25-year-old van de Zandschulp had already knocked out No. 8 seed Casper Ruud in the second round. He also dropped the first set in each of his first three U.S. Open matches before reversing the trend against Schwartzman.

”I think in the end, I deserved to win,” van de Zandschulp said.

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FAN FAVORITES

Frances Tiafoe ripped off his shirt after a victory last week that ended just shy of 2:15 a.m. and said credit went not to his 69 winners, but to the late night/early morning fans that went wild on every set won.

”You guys stuck with me all the way through,” he said. ”You all did it.”

The American repeated a familiar refrain uttered by every underdog — and there have been a handful of upset winners — headed into the second week of the U.S. Open.

The biggest assist this Open is from the fans.

A year after fans were banned because of the pandemic, the familiar roars have risen from Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium, from the opening sets of the day to the ones that stretch past a reasonable bedtime.

American wild-card entry Jenson Brooksby, after upsetting 21st-seeded Aslan Karatsev in five sets, knew how to play to the crowd.

”Crowd played a big role, definitely. Them chanting, cheering me on, it gave me a lot of energy to come back, down two sets to one,” he said. ”It was a rough couple sets. Whether it was just my group, even friends I had here, the whole crowd in general with the full stadium, it was great to see them behind me. I really enjoyed that. Definitely helped get some energy in me to come back.”

Perhaps fueled by the joy of being allowed back in the grandstands after a year’s absence, or maybe two or three $20 Honey Deuce cocktails, Flushing Meadows was full of energy again.

Urged on by a raucous crowd, Shelby Rogers said fans were ”probably the reason I won tonight” in her three-set win Saturday night over top-seeded Ash Barty.

”I just think the energy that they brought and sheer will and passion that they were providing there in the stadium last night was truly incredible,” Rogers said Sunday. ”I think sometimes when you’re in an empty stadium or on the back court, you know, midnight, it’s tough to kind of muster up some of this courage yourself, so it’s always helpful to have other people cheer you on and encourage you.”

Spectators must show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend matches. The U.S. Open topped 60,000 fans in total attendance on Friday and Saturday. The night session had 25,465 fans on Friday and 25,360 fans on Saturday.

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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